The Exogenous State

From Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins, p 149-50:

The main thing that emerges in ancient forms is that unity in them did not possess a merely political character, but rather a spiritual and quite often religious one, the political domain apparently being shaped and upheld by an idea or a general view that was also articulated in thought, law, art, customs, cult, and the form of the economy. A unitary spirit was manifested in a choral variety of forms, corresponding to the various possibilities of human existence; in this context, organic and traditional are more or less synonymous terms. The spirituality of the whole was that which occasioned the integration of the particular, rather than its compression and coercion. A relative pluralism and decentralization are essential features in every organic system. The criterion for this decentralization is that it can be accentuated in proportion to the degree to which the center enjoys a spiritual and even transcendent character, a sovereign equilibrating power, and a natural prestige.

An objective observer cannot help but find it odd that all these things have been entirely forgotten, despite the fact that not long ago, before the advent in Europe of liberalism, individualism and revolutions, there were political systems that reflected in a sensible way some aspects of the organic idea, and these systems appeared entirely normal and legitimate in the eyes of most people…

However, totalitarianism merely represents the counterfeited image of the organic ideal. It is a system in which unity is imposed from the outside, not on the basis of the intrinsic force of a common idea and an authority that is naturally acknowledged, but rather through direct forms of intervention and control, exercised by a power that is exclusively and materially political, imposing itself as the ultimate reason for the system. Moreover, in totalitarianism we usually find a tendency toward uniformity and intolerance for any partial form of autonomy and any degree of freedom, for any intermediary body between the center and the periphery, between the peak and the bottom of a social pyramid. More specifically, totalitarianism engenders a kind of sclerosis, or a monstrous hypertrophy of the entire bureaucratic-administrative structure. These structures became all-pervasive, replacing and suppressing every particular activity, without any restraints, due to an insolent intrusion of the public sphere into the private domain, organizing everything into rigid schemes; these schemes eventually turn out to be meaningless because, starting from a formless center of power, what eventually arises is a sort of intrinsic and gloomy enjoyment of this relentless leveling process. Concerning the most materialistic aspect — namely, that of the economy (which has gained pre-eminence in this “era of economics”) — super organization, centralism and rationalization play an essential part in this rigid and mechanical type of unity.

Though this type of unity has become predominant in the contemporary era, it was foreshadowed in various places and other ages, although always in the terminal and twilight phases of a given cycle of civilization. Among the most notable examples we may recall the forms of bureaucratic governmental centralization that developed during the decline of the Roman, Byzantine, and Persian Empires; what ensued was eventually a definitive dissolution.

Related content from Sphere

10 Comments

  1. Kevin Kim says

    America—an empire?

    The implication might not come from the article itself, but from your having posted the article: the article didn’t directly refer to America, but you clearly wanted us to see how it was relevant to America’s situation. By extension, if your point was that the article is relevant to America, and the article talks about how centralization and stultification are symptoms of declining empire, then the implication is that America is a declining empire.

    Sorry to be curmudgeonly, but I reject all attempts at labeling America as an empire. I know that wasn’t your central purpose in slapping this quote up on your blog, but the empire implication sticks in my craw. You might counter that the “empire” label isn’t relevant to the overall point, and I suppose I’d agree, but then again, if America isn’t an empire, its manner of decay might not follow the same path as an empire’s does. (Whatever that might mean.)

    Otherwise, I think the article is a good reflection of the way things are going.

    Posted June 30, 2014 at 12:37 am | Permalink
  2. Bill says

    Kevin,

    The US is an empire in much the same way the Roman Empire was an empire, a collection of client states that in one way or another paid tribute to Rome. In this case we get the nominal treaties, e.g. NATO, and the tribute is the trade and the military bases. In the days of the Roman Empire, the currency was pure domination by force. Today, the empire is domination by dollars backed by the best military the world had ever seen. This was a good thing for the world, if Victor Davis Hanson is to be believed. It was the Pax Americana, just as it was the Pax Romana that made the world a generally safe place.

    That is changing, and changing fast. A student of Gibbon could draw many parallels, as can a student of the Civil War. I see it as a race between the barbarians or the internal collapse as to which arrives first.

    Posted June 30, 2014 at 9:55 am | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says

    Hi Kevin, Bill,

    Yes Bill, I’d say the concept of “empire” can reasonably be extended to cover the role of the United States as the guarantor of security in much of the world from WWII until fairly recently (as you say, things are changing fast). It’s been more of a net expense, though, rather than a source of tribute, for some time now. And you are quite right: the barbarians are at the gates, at the same time the system is tottering within. Place your bets.

    Kevin, here’s a thought: even if you don’t buy the idea of the U.S. as an “empire”, it seems to me that centralization and consolidation of sovereign power can turn a republic of federated, but formerly mostly autonomous, states into an “empire” without even altering its external borders.

    Posted June 30, 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink
  4. You might call the United States a federalized empire.

    Posted June 30, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink
  5. Kevin Kim says

    Gentlemen,

    I apologize for having derailed a potentially fruitful discussion about the deteriorating trajectory of the country. For what it’s worth, my objection to “empire” language is that it’s often used by the left in an accusatory manner when describing how America purportedly has its fingers in many pots. “Empire” is synonymous with meddling, warmongering, acquisitiveness, and the paving-over of other cultures, as well as the vainglorious demand for tribute. It’s this vision of empire that I reject; I think true imperialism is more visible in a place like China, which is ever poised to leap on Taiwan, has already raped and eaten Tibet, and is busily laying the groundwork for the possible takeover of North Korea to prevent US-style democracy from establishing too firm a beachhead in that part of the world. I love Eddie Izzard’s brand of humor, but when he smirked at his American audience and declared, “You are the Roman Empire, you know”—a typically smug Euro-accusation—I shouted, “No, we’re not!”

    That said, I agree there are lessons to be learned from the collapse of empires; to the extent that the modern US and those ancient empires are examples of expansive civilizations, then yes, they have much in common. But it’s going to take some convincing for me to believe the US is an empire in anything like the traditional sense of the word.

    Submitted respectfully.

    Posted June 30, 2014 at 11:52 am | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    I agree, Kevin.

    Posted June 30, 2014 at 2:48 pm | Permalink
  7. What’s wrong with being empirical?

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted June 30, 2014 at 2:53 pm | Permalink
  8. HJH,

    Nothing wrong with being empirical, in theory. But being imperial is a non-metric matter.

    Posted June 30, 2014 at 7:52 pm | Permalink
  9. Then, I shall be imperial, in theory . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted June 30, 2014 at 10:49 pm | Permalink
  10. . . . and use the Imperial System of Measurement in practice!

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

    Posted July 2, 2014 at 12:31 am | Permalink